A Hike in Recovery
By Ellie Givhan
After living nearly 11 years in active addiction, Hilary Groover found a life in recovery on March 28, 2013.
She went on to attend college at Kennesaw State University and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She served as an active member of the university’s collegiate recovery program (CRP), and today, she is the program manager for the collegiate recovery community (CRC) at the University of Alabama.
Prior to taking on her role as program manager, Groover did not know what her future held. She was coming up on four years of sobriety, and graduation was drawing near. On March 28, 2017, her four-year sobriety anniversary, she announced her plan to embark on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Groover not only succeeded in completing the 2,189-mile trek but also met her fundraising goal for a recovery scholarship at Kennesaw State University. Through setting up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $2.28 per mile, she was able to raise $5,200 over the course of her journey.
Recovery Campus sat down with Groover to talk about her background, her journey to and relationship with recovery, and her adventures on the trail.
Recovery Campus: What led you to recovery?
Hillary Groover: Obviously, my addiction and the quick progression of it led me to recovery at an early age. I got sober in March of 2013, so I was 23 years old. It was my second DUI charge, which led me into a DUI court program. A 16-month long intensive outpatient program really helped me get sober long enough to realize I could find recovery.
RC: What was your life and relationship with recovery like prior to hiking the trail?
HG: I experienced a lot of transitions. I like to say I always have a recovery existential crisis at least once a year. At that point, coming right up on four years, it was a little shaky. I had parted ways with my first sponsor and practiced, up until that point, a 12-step program of recovery. I was definitely in a transformative period in my recovery at that point in my life.
RC: What was your motivation behind hiking the trail?
HG: First of all, I was having that crisis that I feel like all of us do as college students in long-term recovery. I was coming up on senior year. I didn’t know what my future held. Like I said, I was in a transitional period in my recovery. The motivation was doing something I had never done. As an adult, learning a new skill. I had never hiked or really slept outside before attempting the trail.
My higher power put someone in my life who told me that this is going to change your life. She didn’t really explain how or why but that she knew that was a guarantee. In a time in my life where there weren’t a lot of guarantees and I was having a lot of fear of the future, the guarantee that it was going to change my life reminded me of the guarantee that I received four years ago when someone said, “I can’t explain how or why, but recovery is going to change your life forever,” and it did, so that was my motivation.
RC: Was your recovery a factor that influenced you to hike the trail?
HG: Yes. I had lost my faith in the fellowship aspect of my program. In seeking answers in life and in my recovery, I felt like taking a pilgrimage and really taking some time for some introspection would reveal the answers I was searching for. Really, all that was revealed is I don’t need to know the answers to those questions. My recovery had a big influence on those unknown factors for sure.
RC: How did you prepare physically for the trail?
HG: I was a runner and taught dance 15 hours a week, so I was in pretty good shape. I realized very quickly though that hiking shape is different from being in regular shape. You’re going up and down, having as much as 4-6 thousand-foot elevation gain and loss in a day. You’re doing 26 sometimes 30 miles a day. You really can’t prepare for that physically. The preparation comes in the hiking of it the first month.
RC: How long did it take you to hike the trail?
HG: It took me five months and five days. I left on May 19. I actually started hiking the trail on May 21 and then I summited on Oct. 25.
RC: What motivated you when you wanted to stop?
HG: Seeing the big picture. In my recovery and the day to day if I get caught up in the little stuff, it will get me in the mindset that this isn’t worth it. What is all this for?
I guess just looking for the silver lining in the fact that if I hiked through 20 miles of rain, hopefully, I could get to the next town and dry my socks out and that would be really nice. Those kinds of moments that you think about stopping and the things that motivate you, they’re usually little things that help motivate you in this big picture. It helps you appreciate the small stuff when you get back to the real world. I owe so much of the humility I possess today to that trail.
I really got to do some self-discovery about who I am as a human being.
To read more about Groover’s experience on the Appalachian Trail, read the blog she kept throughout her journey at http://hgroover88.wixsite.com/hillshike.